Sometimes, despite my best intentions, things go so wrong that they become absurd and, therefore, funny. At least to me. Well, this is the first of three posts about one of those times.
Some foods really shouldn’t be. They are wholly dreamt of gluttony and conceived in a culture that has far too much time and expendable income. And you know you shouldn’t cook something that stimulates the gag reflex when you see a picture of it. That was my reaction the first time I saw a picture of a Turducken. Or, as I like to call it, Frankenbird.
A Change of Heart
My mother called me, said that my sister, Kerry, had a special request for Thanksgiving. A Turducken.
—What the hell is a Turducken?, I wondered.
She didn’t know, so I did a quick Google. What I found sickened me: a boned chicken stuffed into a boned duck, stuffed into a partially boned turkey; a layer of stuffing within the wrapped chicken and cramped between each flaccid carcass above. Only in America. It made me think of fat people walking around Walmart sucking on gallon tubs of Coke through a straw.
—I am absolutely not making that, I thought aloud.
My mother sounded a little disappointed, but not enough.
Still, time mellows many protests.
After I hung up, I thought:
—How does Kerry know about this?
She was fifty-something, mentally retarded and living a group home with other middle-aged mentally retarded adults. Where does a person like that, living in a place like that, hear about Turducken? I had never heard of turducken before. My mother? No. My friends? Nope. And I felt comfort in thinking that none of us would have conceived of such a thing. So I filed the possibility of discovering my sister’s research methodology away in my mind, under the heading: Fat Chance.
Two years passed and my mind was a Turducken-free zone, until, well, it wasn’t. I cannot say what made me remember, but remember it I did. And I thought that in these, her sunset years, I should do more things to make my mother happy, to give her pleasure in her old age. So I declared 2007 the year of the Turducken.
Still, I didn’t think it was a good idea to eat food that had a name that began with turd. That just seemed so wrong.
Again I Googled turducken and quickly found premade, frozen Turduckens that could be shipped quickly to my doorstep. These were Cajun Turduckens, the only manufactured Turduckens I saw on line. In the photos, they looked like normal turkeys, the result of lengthy turducken stuffing practice no doubt, possibly by poorly paid Cajuns on a turducken assembly line in some remote section of Louisiana. The only difference was that turduckens looked like highly trussed submissives in a bondage movie.
But I was a proud cook. I didn’t buy Turduckens. I made them. Hell, how hard could it be? Buy a turkey, a duck, a chicken, and stuff for stuffing; bone the birds and make the stuffing, then meat, stuffing, meat, stuffing, meat, stuffing; roll it all up; truss it; roast it. No. Big. Deal.
Boning the birds intimidates most people, but not me. I am a great chicken boner. I practically live on chicken and have boned many birds. Boning a chicken: no problem. And I have boned a turkey or two, to ready the meat for smoking. Turkey boning did not daunt me either. And, though I had not boned a duck before, I saw no difficulties and awaited my first boning with interest. So, though I would not say that I am the poultry boning champion, I do have a facility with my boning knife and dead fowl.
Four days before Thanksgiving, I bought my birds and my bread and veggies and as nice a mango as I could find that late in the year. And as the days progressed, I visualized turducken and how I wanted the meal to go, how the table would look and the look on my mother’s face when I cut the bird with my Laguiolle carving set. In my mind it was perfect, but isn’t that always the case.
I researched, visited a web site run by a turducken-loving couple. They provided long explanations of the product and the process and they gave a recipe of the Frankenbird and stuffings, advice and admonishments for neophytes, and they showed pictures of the preparation and of the final products.
Here is where my stomach actually first turned. The pictures of a cooked turducken cut in half crosswise through the middle of the breast. You can cut completely through the things, since there are no bones to stop a knife. I mean, you can cut completely through all the birds unimpeded. That is just unnatural. You’re not supposed to be able to do that.
The photos showed a Frankenbird cut in half and the two halves spread apart and I swear it looked like road kill. There was nothing appetizing about the contents of the image: the center of stuffing, then chicken, then stuffing, then duck, then stuffing, then turkey, cut across the middle of the Frankenbird, all solid and clearly delineated like a drawing in Gray’s anatomy, but some of the stuffing had fallen out and it looked as if it was the remains of an old carcass torn apart by a car, left on the side of the road to decay in the sun.
But did my revulsion stop me? Hell no. I was determined to make my Frankenbird, make my mother and sister happy one time, even if I did not eat any of it myself. Besides, I had already bought all the stuff.